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Big Ten Film Room: Graham Mertz's arrival to the big time, Justin Fields' return and more from the Big Ten's opening weekend

Oct 24, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Justin Fields (1) throws a pass during the second quarter against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

After an offseason spent wondering about the type of quarterback play we would get out of the Big Ten, the Big Ten came out and gave us no answers.

Was Tanner Morgan’s poor day a reflection of himself, or just a bad matchup against the Michigan defense? Was Graham Mertz’s incredible Friday night a reflection of himself, or just a great matchup against the Illinois defense? On the other hand, Justin FIelds did continue to be elite, and that’s the one thing we might know for sure.

In this Big Ten Film Room, we’ll take a look at the aforementioned Morgan, Mertz, Fields, as well as Joe Milton and Peyton Ramsey, to see if we can glean anything from their performances.

Editor's note:  PFF's CFB Premium Stats+ subscribers can view player grades, advanced statistics, positional snap counts and more. Subscribe today for access!

New Kid on the Block

Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz looks and completes one of his 20 completed passes Friday night. Mertz only threw one incompletion and threw four of his five touchdowns in the first half in Wisconsin's opening victory over Illinois. Credit: Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

After I spent the best part of the offseason pumping up incumbent Wisconsin starting quarterback Jack Coan with a bevy of “he’s better than you think” quotes on every radio station I was on, it turns out that Badger fans clamoring for Graham Mertz might have been right all along.

Mertz started for the injured Coan in the Badgers' opening-night rout of Illinois, and he looked every bit like the top prospect he was coming out of high school. His 92.9 passing grade is the fifth-highest grade for any Wisconsin quarterback in the last seven seasons; his adjusted completion percentage was a clean 100%, and he threw the ball accurately on every throw, per PFF's ball location charting. He didn’t miss many of his reads and showed an ability to cycle through those reads when coverage muddied up his initial looks.

Let’s take these two throws — which came on the same concept — that Wisconsin called for him:

This is a staple pass concept in college football where there is a half-field on one side to start the read and backside routes that come into the quarterback's vision as the read progresses. In this case, there’s a classic smash concept to Mertz’s left for him to read first.

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